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Juvenile vs. Adult Criminal System: A Critical Analysis

This article is written by Simran Kaur Bilkhu, a student of Balaji Law College, Pune University during her internship with LeDroit India.


Juvenile as defined by law is a child or a juvenile, is any person who is below the age of eighteen. It is believed that they are the future of our country. They have a great ardor, positivity, enthusiasm, optimism and skills which trail them to a blazing future ahead for the country and themselves. Therefore, it is believed that it is the duty of the nation to protect the children and have them given extra care. IPC however states that a child below the age of seven and seven is not supposed to be tried in the court. Thus have different and vague legislation in accordance with the adult court system.
It has come to notice that there are tendencies of a psychological problem for committing a crime at an early age, due to life experiences at a very early age. Since a child’s mind is tender, fresh, easy to manipulate, easy to structure, easy to lure and more importantly innocent with no knowledge of right and wrong. This brings them to notice the very old forms of the Indian society that they grasp due to the upbringing, patriarchy, gender inequality, lack of education, and economic havoc.

Present Juvenile System in India

India has also made legal provisions that specifically and distinctively deals with the rights and the protection of juvenile offenders which are looked out for to seize the juvenile delinquency problems.
The basis of The Juvenile Justice System in India is made of three main assumptions:

  1. Young offenders should not be tried in the court of law, and rather be corrected in all the best ways possible.
  2. They should get a chance to reform their actions and be at their best, rather than being punished by the court.
  3. Lastly, the trial of a child that is in conflict with the law should be based on the non-penal treatment and that too through the social control based agencies i.e. the Special Homes and the Observational Homes.

Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 and 2000

Since there was a need for a more sturdy and constructive/ judicial system that focused on both disincentive and refinery measures, the Juvenile Justice Act of 2015 superseded the Juvenile Justice Act of 2000. The attitude to juveniles should be different than that to adults; there have been arguments in Parliament that juveniles should be given more room for transformation, reform, or progress, and that this can only happen if there is a specific justice system in place. As a result, the new act, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, focuses on a juvenile-friendly approach to adjudication and resolution of issues.
But he Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 enacted with an aim and target to stipulate protection for children. The mentioned Act was amended twice first in2006 and later in 2011and that the amendment was made to address the aperture or vent and loopholes in the implementations.

The Juvenile Justice Board

There shall be a Board of Constitution for the purpose of exploration and hearing in the matters of a juvenile in conflict with law. The Board shall incorporate of Principle of Magistrate and two of the social workers, among whom one should be a women. The Act also states that under no circumstance the Board can modulate and exercise from regular court premises. And the decision taken by the Principal Magistrate shall be the utmost and final.
Special Procedure of Juvenile Justice Board:

  1. A complaint registered by the police or the citizen cannot be initiated in the proceedings.
  2. The hearing must be informal and should be strictly confidential.
  3. After the detention of the offenders they must be kept in the Observation Homes.
  4. A lady Magistrate must conduct the trial of a juvenile in conflict with the law.
  5. When the Board is not sitting, a child in conflict with law may be produced before only an individual member of the Board.

Provisions provided by the Constitution of India

Constitution has provided basic rights and provisions especially for the welfare of children.

  1. Right to free and compulsory elementary education for all the children under the age of 6 to 14 years. Article 21A
  2. Right to be protected from any hazardous employment under the age of fourteen age. Article 24
  3. Right to be protected from being abused in any form by an adult. Article 39(e).
  4. Right to be protected from human trafficking and forced bonded labour system. Article 39
  5. Right to be provided with good nutrition and proper standard of living. Article 47
  6. Article 15(3) of the Constitution of India provides special powers to State to make any special laws for the upliftment and the betterment of children and women.

Juvenile vs. Adult Criminal System

The only aspect as to why there is a difference between the two systems can be said to be separate with the most basic aspect that is the structure of minds of a child and an adult. The fact that a child has no knowledge of the act that they are doing, with the psychological state of the child due to reasons and early life experiences they have had also that the child has a very tender mind gets manipulated easily and as far as the adult is considered they have proper knowledge of every emotion, feeling, act, that will cause any person harm with a proper intention. Agreed, to a point that there are exceptional cases.
There are thus differences between the legislations, prior to the recent amendment of 2015 there was the 2000, 1986th amendment with the children act 1960 but the changes were eventually made due to emerging involvement of juveniles in crime by progressive and stricter laws. The case of “Nirbhaya Case” in December left the whole nation shocked which rose the issue of involvement of accused who was just 17 years (six months short to attain 18) and his involvement in such a heinous crime of rape. This incident forced the Indian Legislation to establish a brand new law with technical changes, the Indian parliament came up with the “Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection), 2015.
The term child in this fresh recent amendment is defined under sub-section 12 of Section 2 of the said act as: A “child” means a person who has not completed eighteen years of age. The Act classifies the term “child” into two categories:-
i. Child in conflict with law
ii. Child in need of care and protection
Here child in conflict with law means a child who has committed an offence and is under the age of 18 on the date of commission of the offence. While the latter means a child who had no knowledge of the consequences of the act.
Generally, a child or a minor who below the legal age commits a crime is not sent to jail but is rather sent to the Child Care Centre, whereas a young person, juvenile is tried under adult court. Here both the terms minor and juvenile have the same meaning but however the difference lies in the context of implication in the eyes of law. Defining clearly, a minor is the one who is a teen or a young person while a juvenile is either an immature or young offender. Clearly to which a person who attains the age of 18 is considered as an adult in the eyes of law.
A major or an Adult is given some rights which allow everyone to be equal on the basis of caste, creed, sex, age. Laws such as Indian Penal Code, Indian Contract Act, Hindu Marriage Act, Motor Vehicle Act, and Sale of Goods are mandated to every person who is an adult or who has attained the age of majority. Even though a minor can also be a part of the contract or any transaction yet followed by certain restrictions that the minor and the guardian follow in a strict sense. Therefore, an adult has the obligation to abide by these rules, and regulations set by the law in order to prevent the happenings of crimes or any illegal activities and promote harmony, security and peace around the globe.

The main differences between the Juvenile vs. Adult Criminal System

  1. That the Juveniles is tried under the Juvenile Court, whereas an Adult is tried in a normal court; district, sessions etc. after the Nirbhaya Case, if a child of 16-18 age commits a serious offence, that person can be tried under the Indian Legal System.
  2. A crime committed by the juvenile is called a “Delinquent act” while it is known as “crime” which is used in the case of an adult.
  3. Juveniles get the bonus of extra care and protection in the juvenile court system and there is no such advantage that is given to an adult.
  4. The juvenile court system is informal and is at a tender, growing age, while in an adult proceeding it is apt and legally binding by.
  5. And finally, while giving the court decision in the matter of juveniles, a judge has to act in the best interest of the juvenile and must follow certain guidelines and rules which make it easy for them. Whereas, in the case of Adults the decisions are taken in the interest and further peaceful atmosphere of the nation and then the adult.


The amount of raise in the number of juvenile crimes in India is issue oriented and needs to be put up on the list of focus. Although there are various rules and legislations to stop such crimes, the present laws are not creating a deterrent effect on juveniles and thus are not accomplished. The increasing rates of the juvenile crime in India is very apprehensive issue which need focusing upon. There are various legislations pronounced by the government to stop the incidents of juvenile crimes yet the present laws on juveniles is not imposing the effect that we wish the society to engage in and thus the results are not fruitful and legislative intent is not accomplishing.

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